Cody 1:Gates 82Billion… Cody Wins!

101576932-BILL_GATES.1910x1000

Anthony Cody’ book The Educator And The Oligarch meticulously documents the efforts of Bill and Melinda Gates and the Gates Foundation’s efforts to “reform” public education.  But more than a well-researched book, Cody documents how his criticism of the Gates Foundation led to a public dialogue (through online posts) with the foundation about the efficacy of the Foundation’s intent to change public education.

If you’re looking for evidence about the Gates’ plan to reform schools, this is an excellent resource with 350 references to articles, books, public speeches, YouTube videos, online documents, and personal communications.  Cody does an excellent job of weaving in these references with classroom-based insights about what might happen to public education if Gates is successful.

In 2012 Cody “received an email from a highly placed individual in the Gates Foundation” (p. 55).  This opened a dialogue with officials in the Gates Foundation and led to a series of five blog posts with each side giving their perspectives about public education.  Cody reprints large portions of his blog posts in the book and comments on what the Gates Foundation officials wrote.  He gives links to the Foundation’s posts, but I would have liked to read more of what they wrote – I like to hear both sides of an argument.

Toward the end of the book Cody makes some predictions about what public education might look like if Gates is successful.  I found these predictions entirely plausible and very scary.  Everybody concerned with the direction of public education should read those predictions and ask, “Is this where we want to go?”  If your answer is “No”, then use the information in the book to push back against these changes: if your answer is “Yes” or “I don’t know” then you’ll be using this book 10 years from now when researching “How did we get ourselves into this mess?”

Thank you Mr. Cody for taking the time to present to us a clear view of what Bill and Melinda Gates and the Gates Foundation have said, done, and funded and where they are leading us.  Will we follow?

Advertisements

I Love Cartoons – about Charter Schools!

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mark Fiore created a short cartoon about little Timmy and his experiences with a charter school.  You can see the YouTube video by clicking here:  Profitship!  Cashing In On Public Schools

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 10.05.44 AM

The cartoon has an interesting backstory.   There actually is a for-profit charter school chain called Rocketship.  As published in the online newspaper The Progressive:

Rocketship (see Barbara Miner’s report from our new Save Our Schools issue) uses computer programs to teach children for a significant portion of the day, and eschews “extras” like school librarians, art, gym, and social studies, which further reduce staff costs. This combination of real teachers and online programs, dubbed “blended learning,” is the fastest-growing sector of the burgeoning charter school industry.
“The call for public schools to be replaced by such tech-heavy, teacher-light operations comes from some of the most powerful actors in local and national politics,” Lafer wrote in his report.

If you would like to read The Progressive’s entire article, click here: ProfitShip Learning | The Progressive.

Should You Read the Book “Losing Our Way”?

cover

I read the book Losing Our Way by Bob Herbert over Thanksgiving.  Several of my fellow bloggers recommended it so I was eager to begin reading the book when it arrived.  After finishing the book I was at a loss as to how to write about it.  Then last weekend I saw the movie “Interstellar“.  The movie had beautiful scenes, complex characters, an interesting plot yet I came out of theater scratching my head knowing I missed something.  I had that same experience after reading Losing Our Way.

When I first heard about Losing Our Way I was excited to think that someone had put their finger on the malaise that seems to surround us now.  I was hoping Herbert could trace the roots of some of America’s biggest problems and provide some magical formula as to how to put America back on the right course.  Perhaps that was too much to expect.  It wasn’t until after reading the book that I took a closer look at the cover and saw that Herbert sub-titled his book “An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America”.   That’s what he did a good job at – superbly documenting some of the troubles we are experiencing.

Don’t get me wrong – Losing Our Way was a very enjoyable book to read.  Herbert was an op-ed writer for the New York Times for many years and is an excellent writer.  He delves deeply into the lives of a few people and tells their story, using them as exemplars of some of the troubles America has.  His stories are compelling and written with compassion.

So what troubles do we have?  SPOILER ALERT!  War is bad.  Killing and maiming people during war is bad.  Our infrastructure is bad.  Fewer people in the middle class is bad.  Wealthy people are bad.  Education reformers are bad.

Suffice it to say, a very liberal agenda.  I could just imagine my dad reading passages like:

The recklessness of the nation’s approach to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was underscored by the federal government’s willingness, even as the troops were pouring into harm’s way, to dramatically cut taxes and sharply increase nonessential domestic spending. (p. 74)

With its Walmart fortune, the Walton clan alone was worth more than the collective wealth of the bottom 125 million Americans.  These are the kinds of distortions that used to alarm people when they were associated with thuggish third-world dictatorships.  Now they’ve become the norm in a country that for many long decades had pointed proudly to its vast and prosperous middle class as its defining characteristic. (p. 116)

To his credit, Herbert did and excellent job of describing the attacks on education.  If you’re wondering why I am concerned about public education I would suggest reading Herbert’s book as he told the story much better than I have.

Should you read Losing Our Way?  I think you should.  My more conservative friends have now been forewarned that some of the judgmental language will put you off.  That shouldn’t stop you from reading the poignant stories of people who have been hurt by some of the mistakes America has taken.  My more liberal friends will have many of their beliefs about America validated.

Herbert did a great job of documenting some of the problems we Americans are experiencing.  He wants us to get mad enough about those problems to do something.  He left it up to us to come up with the solutions.

A successful history of—and the threat to—Public Education in the United States

Lloyd Lofthouse has written a brief history of public education, including information about the threats to public education. He starts out by saying:

I’m sure you’ve heard for years—even decades—that the public schools are failing; that teachers are lazy, incompetent and their labor unions are responsible for this so-called failure.
The solution: fire the teachers, close the public schools and get rid of the labor unions. Then turn education over to private sector corporations run by CEOs who only answer to their wealthiest stock holders.

I think you’ll find it an informative read.

Crazy Normal - the Classroom Exposé

I’m sure you’ve heard for years—even decades—that the public schools are failing; that teachers are lazy, incompetent and their labor unions are responsible for this so-called failure.

The solution: fire the teachers, close the public schools and get rid of the labor unions. Then turn education over to private sector corporations run by CEOs who only answer to their wealthiest stock holders. For instance, Bill Gates, the Koch brothers, the Walton family, Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, Rupert Murdock and a flock of Hedge Fund billionaires.

Let’s see what you think after we go back to 1779 and walk through 235 years of history to the present. It won’t take long—a few facts and a conclusion.

  • We’ll start with Thomas Jefferson in 1779, because he thought the US should have two education systems: one for the wealthy and one for everyone else.  As Jefferson said, we’ll “rake a few geniuses from…

View original post 1,139 more words

Demographic Analysis of Charter Schools in New Jersey

newjersey-700x700Those reading posts from this blog may have wondered, “Why is he critical of charter schools?”.  There are many reasons why charter schools hurt public education and today I’d like to focus on the fact that they aren’t fair.  As public educators, we always feared that charter schools would skim off the “good” students and leave public schools with those students who require the most assistance.  A recently released report has substantiated that concern.

Authors Mark Weber and Julia Sass Rubin released the report titled “New Jersey Charter Schools: A Data-Driven View, Part 1“. Click on a synopsis of their report HERE.   In the words of co-author Mark Weber:

The data is quite clear: as a sector, charter schools do not educate the same students as their host districts. On average, charters educate proportionately fewer students in economic disadvantage (as measured by eligibility for the federal free lunch program) than do the district schools in their communities.
Charters also educate fewer students with special education needs; further, the students with those needs that charters do educate tend to have less costly disabilities. In addition, the sector enrolls very few students who are English language learners.  (NJ Spotlight, 11/14/14)

Is this what “choice” is all about?  Leave the kids with the most needs in public schools while the charter schools skim off the kids who are less expensive to educate?  If public schools have a disproportionately higher percentage of students in economic disadvantage, special education needs, and English language learners what will their test scores look like compared to the charter school down the block?  If their test scores are lower, then I guess that would prove that public schools are failing and should be “reformed”.

We Got a “C”!

 c-big

Today the newspaper announced the release of a “new report grading public education in Illinois…” (Daily Herald, Nov. 20, 2014).  The report, titled “The State We’re In: 2014”, was published by Advance Illinois.  The report said it looked at 55 metrics and, after comparing the metrics those from the other 49 states, found that Illinois got a grade of “C”.  Using their logic, that means Illinois ranked in the middle of all 50 states overall.  Not bad really, considering the terrible shape our finances are in (of course none of the metrics included the degree to which states fund schools – isn’t Illinois at the bottom there?).

I always look at reports like these from well-funded education think-tanks with jaundiced eyes.  Who is Advance Illinois?  What’s their agenda?  Where’s the money coming from?

Of Advance Illinois’ 18 board members, one is listed as an “Instructional Support Leader” for Chicago Public Schools – the only K-12 educator on the board.  At the end of the report Advance Illinois acknowledges 25 “education experts” for their help – only three appear to be from K-12 public schools.  The Executive Director of Advance Illinois is Robin Steans.  Look at the list of supporters below.  Yep, the Executive Director is the daughter of one of Advance Illinois’ contributors.  Is that a conflict of interest?

How about Advance Illinois’ mission?  In part it says it will be “an independent, objective voice to promote public education in Illinois…”  One of their eight mission statements says, “Students and families should have choices in how to meet their educational needs.”  Is it objective to promote charter schools as a solution?

A look at Advance Illinois’ supporters:

Wonder why support for charter schools is part of Advance Illinois’ mission?  The Gates Foundation has given them almost $2.5 million since 2008.  The Gates Foundation supports charter schools.  The Joyce Foundation recently gave Advance Illinois $1.05 million.  It also recently gave $700K to support the formation of charter schools in Illinois.

The report said that Illinois’ “C” grade was based on the comparison of 55 metrics.  It was only 24.  Seven of the 55 were just facts (i.e. number of schools in Illinois).  Of the remaining 48 metrics, 24 had no data available for Illinois.  So the “C” grade was given with half of the data missing.

I actually like some of the things the report says (i.e. “Illinois is notorious for its inadequate, inequitable method of funding public schools”).  But you have to be careful when reading reports like this from private organizations – you don’t know what their agenda is.  And with well-heeled supporters, there is always an agenda.

Ratliffs: The Rotary 4-way test vs. school vouchers – Longview News-Journal: Forum

Vouchers are one way in which public education is under attack.  Don’t like your public school?  Get a voucher worth $X,XXX and take it to a private school or charter school.  Every dollar taken away from public schools weaken them.  Click the link below to see an argument against vouchers from a Texan who cares:

Ratliffs: The Rotary 4-way test vs. school vouchers – Longview News-Journal: Forum.